|Preview: Celtics vs. Kings||02.16.10 at 10:12 am ET|
Taking a much-needed break from the trade deadline rumors the Celtics return to the court Tuesday night to play the Kings… who happen to employ one of the few names actually linked to a Ray Allen trade; Kevin Martin. Obviously all eyes will be on the two shooting guards this evening, if for no other reason than idle curiosity.
Even if Danny Ainge was somehow able to swing major trade (which doesn’t seem likely) the Celtics have problems that only they can fix. They don’t rebound very well. They turn the ball over too much and they don’t shoot as well from 3-point range as they have in the past.
All those things are symptoms of other things. Their defense has allowed too much dribble penetration, which has led to defensive breakdowns and clear alleys for opponents to hit the glass. The offense has gone stagnant too often, leading to bad passes and forced shots.
These have in turn been referred to as “issues” and “agendas,” which is way more exciting and intriguing then simply noting that they are not playing well. The question, then, for the Celtics in the final 32 games is: Are their breakdowns mental or are they physical? They continue to insist that they are mental and that they can fix their problems. Now they have to prove it.
CELTICS (32-18, 5-5 last 10)
Points Per Game: 98.7
Points Allowed: 93.7
Differential: +5.0 (4th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (13th)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.8 (1st)
Pace: 91.5 (23rd)
KINGS (18-34, 3-7 last 10)
Points Per Game: 102.0
Points Allowed: 105.8
Differential: -3.8 (22nd)
Offensive Efficiency: 106.5 (17th)
Defensive Efficiency: 110.5 (26th)
Pace: 94.6 (6th)
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Hornets||02.10.10 at 10:34 pm ET|
At what point does a string of bad performances become a problem that can’t be fixed? At what point does the Celtics uninspired second-half play inspire Danny Ainge to do something to change the mix?
Ainge was a guest on The Big Show hours before the Celtics collapsed (again) in the third quarter of a 93-85 loss to the Hornets Wednesday night and said he was, “not ready to blow it up.” [Click here for a full transcript]. If the Magic breakdown wasn’t enough to change Ainge’s mind, was this one?
There’s a week to go before the trade deadline and the Celtics have shown few signs of breaking out of their funk, which has now stretched to 23 games. The Celtics are 10-13 over that span. Is that the real Celtics, or is it the team that started the season winning 22 of the first 27 games? That’s the question Ainge has to answer, and time is running out.
Player of the Game: Darren Collison. The Hornets rookie who was starting in place of the injured Chris Paul routinely broke down the Celtics defense with dribble penetration and finished with 25 points and nine assists. When Collison wasn’t getting into the paint, he killed them with his pull-up jump shot.
Turning Point: Once again the Celtics collapse started with a sluggish offense and carried over to a lackluster defensive effort. The Celtics actually held serve with the Hornets until the 7:26 mark of the third quarter. That was when Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic began to heat up from behind the arc. The 3-point barrage was eerily similar to the Magic game, as was the Celtics lack of an answer on offense.
* Ray Allen was scratched about an hour before the game with back spasms. It was the first game Allen has missed this season.
* The Celtics started off hot, but the Hornets got hotter making eight of their first 10 shots.The C’s also turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter.
* The second unit rode to the rescue, at least momentarily, with an inspired effort. With all five starters on the bench, the reserves opened up a nine-point lead in the second quarter. They did most of their damage down low as Glen Davis (nine points) and Rasheed Wallace (eight points) took advantage of mismatches against the Hornets reserve big men.
* Paul Pierce did play despite pain in his left foot. After 13 points in the first half, Pierce scored just two points in the second.
* The Celtics made just 3-of-13 free throws during a stretch of the second half.
* Daniels and Wallace were the only Celtics who played strong games. They combined for 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
|Celtics vs. Hornets: Third quarter wrap||at 9:57 pm ET|
The Celtics starters came out with better energy to start the second half, but worse execution. The Hornets began to chip away at the lead as Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic heated up from 3-point range, giving this game the familiar feel of the Orlando nightmare from over the weekend.
Doc Rivers went to his bench earlier than usual in an attempt to change the flow of the game, but the Hornets kept making shots. The Celtics also missed six straight free throws, which didn’t help the cause. When it was over, New Orleans had outscored the Celtics, 29-12 and taken a 72-67 lead.
They have 12 minutes to turn this thing around, or face a host of uncomfortable questions over the next week.
|Celtics vs. Hornets: Halftime wrap||at 9:12 pm ET|
After an opening quarter in which the Celtics turned the ball over nine times, the second unit rode to the rescue with an inspired effort. With all five starters on the bench, the reserves opened up a nine-point lead, which became a 55-43 edge at the break.
The Celtics did much of their damage down low as Glen Davis (nine points) and Rasheed Wallace (eight points) took advantage of mismatches against the Hornets reserve big men. Eddie House and Marquis Daniels also played the entire quarter ahead of Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen. Paul Pierce leads the Celtics with 13 points.
|Celtics vs. Hornets: First quarter wrap||at 8:41 pm ET|
The Celtics started off hot, but the Hornets got hotter making eight of their first 10 shots in a back-and-forth first quarter that ended with New Orleans holding a 29-27 lead. Playing without Ray Allen, who was sent back to the team hotel with bask spasms, the Celtics turned the ball over nine times.
Paul Pierce did play, however, and he led the Celtics with nine points. Rookie Darren Collison and big man David West each scored eight points for the Hornets. New Orleans coach Jeff Bower picked up a technical foul in the opening minutes.
|Preview: Celtics vs. Hornets||at 10:09 am ET|
This marks the end of the unofficial first half of the regular season and the Celtics remain something of an enigma. Despite all their struggles over the last month and a half, the Celtics remain one of the top teams in the league according to all the best indicators–record, point differential, etc.
Since Christmas, however, the Celtics are just 10-12. That’s a significant chunk of the season in which they have played more like the Bulls then the Cavaliers, the latter of which has won 19 of 22 games during that same stretch.
Coming out of the All-Star break the Celtics go on a long west coast trip and will endure a March in which they play 17 games in 31 days. At the beginning of the season that looked like a good time to give their veteran players some rest before the playoffs. Now it looks like a survival test.
CELTICS (32-17, 5-5 last 10)
Points Per Game: 99.0
Points Allowed: 93.7
Differential: +5.3 (4th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.7 (13th)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.9 (1st)
Pace: 91.4 (22nd)
Injuries: Paul Pierce (Foot)
HORNETS (27-25, 4-6, last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.2
Points Allowed: 101.5
Differential: -1.3 (19th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.4 (14th)
Defensive Efficiency: 108.9 (20th)
Pace: 92.1 (19th)
|Video: Doc Rivers addresses the press at practice||02.09.10 at 2:00 pm ET|